During the season of Advent, I am translating from Greek to English the weekday epistle readings out of the Daily Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer.
Friday, 11 December 2020 2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:
13. We owe it to God to give thanks always for you beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord. God chose you as first fruits in salvation, sanctification of spirit, faith, and truth,
14. into which he called you by our gospel to acquire the glory of our Lord Jesus Messiah.
15. So then, brothers and sisters, you must keep the traditions and stand firmly in what you were taught by us; whether by word or letter.
16. Now, may the Lord Jesus Messiah himself, and God our father, who loved us, give unending encouragement, hope, love, and grace.
17. to encourage your hearts and to strengthen every good work and word.
1. Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the word of the Lord might run and might be honored just as it has with you,
2. and that we might be delivered from perverse and evil people. For not everyone is faithful.
3. But the Lord is faithful. He strengthens and guards you from the evil one.
4. And we are persuaded about you that what we command in the Lord you do, and you will do.
5. May the Lord straighten out your heart in the love of God and patience of Messiah.
It is a little unusual to have the chapters broken up in this way, and it is even more unusual in that it makes very little logical sense with the text. However, that is what the lectionary did, and that is what we have.
The end of Chapter two is a behavioral exhortation in light of their redemption. Since they have been saved from all the gloom and destruction mentioned earlier, they should have a corresponding faithfulness. This faithfulness is a call to keep the traditions. Paul doesn’t take the time to spell those out, but we can assume the Thessalonians disciples would have known exactly what he meant. Likely these traditions are the teachings of Christ, the practice of baptism, communion, and of interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures through the life, death, resurrection, and eventual return of Messiah Jesus.
I find the appeal to tradition appealing. This appeal is, I admit, biased with the weariness of a lifetime of being sold the latest innovation in church life. Innovation is not evil, but the addiction the American church has to innovation, faddism, and the ever growing desire to be in the cool crowd is tiresome. It is enough, I think, to hold to the tradition, the New Testament tradition.
I wrestled with the grammar of verse 16 for much longer than I should have. The “may” in the verse comes with the verb “encourage” and is difficult to place. The whole thing is made that much harder because Paul treats Jesus and God the Father as one rather than two. To make the English smooth I really wanted to render it, “The Lord Jesus Messiah and God our Father, may they encourage …” But I did not. I think it would be justified to keep the verb tense together, but it reads clunky.
Chapter three begins with a request for prayer. It is an interesting prayer in that it is for deliverance from people seeking to thwart the work. He adds, almost as a throw away, “for not everyone is faithful.” That is when I stand up, applaud and say, “Preach it, Paul. Preach!” It does not take much imagination to think of someone who has abandoned the work and is yet throwing darts at Paul and the ministry from a distance. Paul is asking the Thessalonians to pray for him to overcome this kind of adversary. I wonder if this is the Satan from 1 Thessalonians blocking him.
I don’t know that I do enough specific praying in my own life about people who stand in the way. I tend to pray specifically for people, but I rarely pray specifically that problem people would be removed as an obstacle. I probably should work on that more . . . although I may enjoy a list of people to pray against far more than I should. Lord, help me.
Questions For Application
- “To acquire the glory of Jesus” is a great mission statement. What would the glory of Jesus look like in your life?
- Paul prays for God to give them encouragement, hope, love, and grace. I honestly tell you right now encouragement is what I feel I need most. What do you feel you need most?
- Paul seems very preoccupied with heart and emotional issues. He asks for the Lord to straighten out their heart. What in your heart needs straightening out?